What Makes a Church “Attractive?”

What really makes a church attractive? Stained Glass6

In our western culture, much of how churches reach out to prospective members is through marketing. Some churches even begin with a budget that devotes half of its assets to marketing!  Many of today’s worship services are driven by thousands up to millions of dollars in audio & visual production costs.

Buildings are also an “attractive” emphasis for some churches. Style and function are the focus on building programs that also require incredible amounts of money. Often churches seem to take on a “if you build it, they will come” approach to being attractive.

There are many other factors that can go into the conversation: worship style, preaching style, clothing style, service times, ministry programs, Sunday School or small groups, and so on and so on.

The truth is, many people in our culture are drawn to these things – what they find to be attractive. Our church culture has become consumer-driven, and the church members have morphed into consumers. As ministers we see people come and go, many times based on the factors discussed above. People want to go to a church that has the things they like and where they can feel comfortable.

Are we getting it right? What really makes a church attractive? 

Looking back at the first churches in the New Testament, what did they have? There were no multi-million dollar budgets, no buildings, no lights, no sound, and no marketing budget. They couldn’t advertise – they would get arrested! Still, they saw transformation, growth, missions, community change, and movements of the Holy Spirit that would shock the world today.

Acts 2:42-47: 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

For the early church, they were “attractive” because of the transformational community of the believers. People saw the change that Christ can make in a life, and they saw the true love of God between the believers. That’s what makes a church attractive – real change & real love.

Not only did the early church demonstrate this, but the New Testament writers continually wrote about it and instructed the believers to practice it. Here are just a few of many examples:

  • Acts 11:19-26: The church at Antioch demonstrated their transformation in such a way that those outside the church gave them the title “Christian,” identifying them with Christ
  • Galatians 6:10: Do good to all, especially the household of faith
  • Ephesians 4:26-32: Build up the community of faith, not tear it down
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11: Encourage and build up one another
  • 1 Peter 4:7-11: Our love for one another glorifies God
  • James 2:14-17: How we take care of each other’s needs in our church demonstrates God’s love to others

Why is the transformation of the Holy Spirit and the love of God so attractive? Because everyone is created in the image of God, and deep inside of all of us we long to be a part of the way things God intended them to be. That is what changes people. Impressive marketing, grandiose worship production, and beautiful buildings do not transform lives.

I’m not saying that buildings, sound systems, lights, even advertising is a bad thing. Using these things to glorify God is smart and effective. They are great tools in leading people to follow Christ and be like Him. We must always remember, however, that what really makes a church attractive has not changed in 2000 years, nor will it ever be different.

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God’s Word > our word // Acts 8:26-40

Have you ever stood on the shore of a beach and let the water rush around your feet? What is that feeling like? Can you notice the shifting of your weight at the ground beneath your toes slowing gives way?

I shared with our Sunday School leaders last week some things that have been on my heart lately, and one thing we discussed was the importance of God’s Word being the foundation of ministry.

However, the Bible is not merely for pastors and Sunday School teachers, but it is the ONLY powerful, reliable foundation that any Christ-follower can rely on for growth and truth.

In so many of our churches and ministries today, what foundation is being used to build disciples? So many times we focus on attendance, numbers, aesthetics, events, or even just trying to keep people in the doors. But disciples aren’t made that way. A real follower of Christ doesn’t follow because the music is just right or the preaching is shallow. Real followers feel the breath of God from the Scriptures.

We see an example of this in Acts 8:26-40. Philip, one of Christ’s disciples, is following the Holy Spirit’s guidance and comes across a man reading from a scroll of Isaiah. When Philip asks the man if he knows what he is reading, the Ethiopian replies, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” Check out how Philip responded (vs.35):

“Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”

After this, the Ethiopian was so moved he gave his life to Christ and wanted to be baptized immediately! What’s even crazier about this story is that they are in the middle of the desert, and as soon as this happened they were near water. Water? Desert? What??? (that’s my Gus (Dule Hill) impression from Psych)

No matter what our role in the church is, ministry must have a focus on God’s Word and training people in it. Whether it’s having study groups, discipleship, going deeper in your sermons or talks, or challenging your Sunday School class to read together outside of church – we have to put our faith and trust in the Bible over our own words.

Don’t focus on the clever little sayings that sound good, making all your points fit alliteration, or always making people happy. Don’t try to “convince” someone to the Gospel. Let the Gospel speak for itself.

There are many smooth speakers out there who have very large crowds come to hear them, but how much does that really impact someone’s life both here and in eternity? The best preachers aren’t remembered by what they said but what Scripture passages their sermon was about.

Even though it may seem like I’m just talking about church and ministry, this also applies to the individual Christian’s walk and relationship with Christ. It is vital to being a disciple.

It’s summertime right now, and church camps are in full swing. So many people have a great experience with the Lord, but very few have a lasting relationship that comes out of it. The biggest difference from camp and life away from it is the absence of the breath of God. To maintain discipleship and commitment, God’s Word must be breathed into our lives consistently.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

How close do you have to be to feel someone’s breath? Very, very close. Sometimes, uncomfortably close. When we draw near to God through His Word, we feel His breath – we draw close to Him. Draw near and let the Holy Spirit breathe life into you!

Jesus in Matthew 7:24-27 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”